Empirical Economics

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 1697–1718

Can statisticians beat surgeons at the planning of operations?


  • Paul Joustra
    • Academic Medical Center and Amsterdam School of EconomicsUniversity of Amsterdam
  • Reinier Meester
    • Amsterdam School of EconomicsUniversity of Amsterdam
    • Amsterdam School of EconomicsUniversity of Amsterdam

DOI: 10.1007/s00181-012-0594-0


The planning of operations in the Academic Medical Center is primarily based on the assessments of the length of the operation by the surgeons. We investigate whether duration models employing the information available at the moment the planning is made, offer a better alternative. Our empirical results indicate that statistical methods often do better than surgeons. This does not imply that the surgeons’ predictions do not contain valuable information. This information is a key explanatory variable in our statistical models. What our conclusion does entail is that a correction of the predictions of surgeons is possible because they are often under- or overestimating the actual length of operations.


Efficient planning of operations Duration models Cost reduction

JEL Classification

I10 I12


The comments of two anonymous referees are gratefully acknowledged. All ML-routines used are either performed by using standard routines from Stata or are carried out using R (free software, for information see http://www.r-project.org/).

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2012